Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bringing my RCA REB1100 back to life

My RCA REB1100 (REB-1100, REB 1100) eBook reading device succumbed yesterday to the dreaded grid of death: a condition in which the internal flash ROM is corrupted, and the device won't do anything.

After googling around, and an hour or two of trial-and-error on my own, I managed to get the device working again, including getting it to recognize its old serial number and eBook ID, something, as far as I can tell, no one has ever managed before.

I wrote up the procedure for the REB1100 groups on Yahoo!, and thought I'd post a link to it here. Since Google does a good job of including my blog in its search results, I'm hoping others who need the advice will find this posting, and follow this link to the Yahoo! Groups REB1100 files group, where I outline the fix that worked for me in detail.

Incidentally, I'm rather fond of this five-year-old eBook-reading device (and tons of content is still available for it at


At December 23, 2006 7:24 PM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

Hey Rob keep it up and they will be calling you The Miracle Worker - a TOS reference for those who are wondering.

At December 23, 2006 9:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old Scotty ;P

At December 23, 2006 11:08 PM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

Rob, does your ebook reader come with software and a usb port? I'm looking at getting a cheep ebook reader that will accept MS word documents etc without going the route of a PDA device.

At December 24, 2006 12:38 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Jim. The RCA REB1100 has been discontinued, but, yes, it has a USB port. A similar device, which can accept Word documents (if they're not too fancy in the formatting) if you get an add-on $15 program, is the eBookwise 1150, available here.

That said, any Palm OS device with a high-resolution screen makes a decent eBook reader, and most of them come with Documents To Go software, which will let you read and edit Word documents (the eBookwise 1150 only lets you read them, not edit them).

At December 24, 2006 3:32 AM , Anonymous Jim Shannon said...

Rob, thanks for the info. I was trying to avoid a PDA but a co worker has one and uses it as his cell phone etc. But the 1150 looks pretty good.

I was looking at the "filliment" ebook reader but this looks better as I like the SD media card slot. The trip on the train home from work at night is only 20 min but I'd rather read my drafts then look at people.

The PDA solutuion you mentioned is also pretty good but looking at the small screen just doesn't cut it for editing but I suppose the screen can be turned into landscape format.


At December 24, 2006 11:13 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Jim. The
Filament eBook reader
is the same physical hardware as the eBookwise 1150: both of them are Gemstar's GEB1150 unit rebranded. Gemstar bowed out of the eBook marketplace a couple of years ago, but there were warehouses full of these reading machines and both eBookwise (a division of Fictionwise) and Filament licensed them, added new firmware, and started selling them under their own names. The eBookwise route has you buy the machine, and buy each commercial title you want; the Filament route gives you the machine but locks you into a subscription for buying content.

Note, too, that the eBookwise ships with a 64MB SmartMedia Card to bolster the main units anemic 8MB of memory; the Filament requires you to buy the card separately.

In either case, the books available are the same: both eBookwise and Filament use Fictionwise as their source of commercial eBooks. But there are other sources for eBooks in the Rocket .rb format (one of the formats these devices can read). The Baen Free Library has such goodies as James P. Hogan's Inherit the Stars (one of my personal favourite SF novels) in that format for free, and you can pick up a CD of 6,500 public-domain works (Poe, Wells, Verne, etc.) off of eBay for $12 shipping included from a guy in New Zealand who always has them for sale.

So, if it were me, I'd go with the eBookwise current deal because (a) it doesn't lock you into a content provider, and (b) it comes with the 64MB card, which you really do need.

Note that there will be duties and taxes on shipping these machines to Canada.

At December 24, 2006 11:29 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

And on PDAs, yes, they have smaller screens, but the resolution is about the same (on modern Palm OS devices), and if you get one like the Palm TX with a 320x480 screen, the size is pretty decent -- and it's in colour, to boot. Color-screens can do anti-aliasing (a technique for smoothing out jaggies; I use a third-party program called FontSmoother on my Palm-OS Sony Clie) to produce very attractive text; the eBookwise and Filament readers are like reading old dot-matrix printouts: quite readable, but hardly attractive.

At December 31, 2006 8:46 AM , Blogger Lou_Sytsma said...

The unit is still popular. Here is one on eBay -
that sold for $123 US!

At January 23, 2007 11:20 PM , Anonymous Jeff said...

I read on my cell phone with an app called Libris. It has nice antialiased fonts that are easy on the eyes.

At July 28, 2007 8:54 PM , Anonymous Scott said...


I stumbled across your blog and am so happy. I used my REB1100 until it went to the great beyond. I got mine when I worked for RCA and loved it to death. Then they did away with Gemstar and I was never able to get all the books I'd paid for. The 800 number never worked even though they were supposed to maintain it.... Now I've found out from you that I can purchase the 1150 from ebook wise. Will my old rocket reader software work or will the new one allow me to import pretty much what ever I want?
Email me at


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